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Laura Hunt

With a Touch of Chinese --- a Wedding in Seattle

Monica Lin-Meyer and Johanna Kaestner

Shortly after Monica's and Alex's wedding proposal (see: Great Ideas), their planning began. One of the first things they decided was that they wanted to pay for their own wedding, since both sets of their parents already were retired. "Our parents provided for us all our lives, so it felt right for us to pay for our wedding celebration," Monica told me. "They still insisted on contributing something, which we used toward the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon."


Coming up with a budget was a challenge because the bride and groom had different priorities. As a singer, Monica wanted to have great ceremony and reception music, while Alex's priority was a memorable honeymoon. Living in Seattle, they both wanted to show off their beloved city and the great Northwest to their relatives who live out of town. With Monica's Chinese-American background, the local Pacific Rim theme could not be a better fit.

Then the legwork began. They set aside time to discuss the wedding over brunch each Sunday. "It was just like engaging a team on a project at work. You need regular meetings to check in, talk about priorities, and divvy up the next steps," Monica said. They checked locations and vendors, compared different products and prices. The prices quoted by venues and restaurants were the hardest to figure out and needed special attention. Some venues offered prices that were all-inclusive. Others split out certain items such as parking; set-up/clean-up fees; and rental of china, flatware, and table linens. It often turned out that a seemingly inexpensive proposal ended up being higher priced when they added up all the costs.

The ceremony programs, which featured the Chinese character "double happiness" written by Monica's father, were handmade by the bride and groom.

During the many hours they planned together, they also talked about wedding traditions. For one thing, they wanted to share the same last name, yet each wanted to keep his or her own. In the end, they both decided to hyphenate their last names. The new name now reflects an equal union and at the same time preserves their individual identities and heritage. They also talked about ceremony and reception traditions. For example, Monica, who is close to both parents, wanted both her mother and father to walk her down the aisle. As many modern couples prefer, they also chose to forgo the bouquet and garter toss.

The bride and her attendants wore dresses
that hinted at Monica's Chinese heritage.

At I Do Bridal in Wallingford, Monica found the perfect dress -- a white strapless with a flowery red and gold border around the bodice and the skirt -- that combined elements of the traditional Chinese wedding dress with the modern-day white. The bride's attendants wore colorful, custom-made Chinese dresses (called "Qi Paos" or "Cheong Sams") ordered online through a Hong Kong dress shop. Each bridesmaid carried a bouquet in different colors, designed by Floressence.

Monica and Alex took full advantage of the beautiful Pacific Northwest and treated their out-of-town guests to a rehearsal dinner on a boat from Waterway Cruises.  "It was a warm evening, and our guests really enjoyed cruising Lake Union and Lake Washington," Monica said.

Then came the Big Day. Monica and Alex were married at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Wallingford. The ceremony was a Catholic Mass with music provided by the Cantare Vocal Ensemble, a choir in which Monica is a member. The reception for about 100 guests was held at Ray's Boathouse. This contemporary location right on the waters of Shilshole Bay provided a typical Northwest atmosphere, a beautiful view, wonderful fresh food, and superb personal service.

Andea, the catering manager, not only gave valuable advice, but also followed the couples' instructions to a T. "The Ray's staff went above and beyond the call of duty to take care of us and our guests. For example, when two friends arrived after the buffet was cleared, the Ray's staff prepared a special dish just for them. It's something they've raved about ever since. I have never seen such perfect servers -- warm and personable -- they almost seemed like friends," Monica told me.

The wedding cake was "the bride's dream come true." Each cake layer was decorated with a red and gold Chinese ribbon in addition to fresh flowers. A pretty note on the cake table explained the story behind the cake. "When I was 10 years old, I was invited to a cousin's wedding in Taiwan where they served a delicious cake filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit. It made such an impression on me that, as a little girl, I decided I wanted to serve the same kind of cake at my own wedding," Monica said. Mimi's Bakery, an Asian bakery in Beacon Hill, fulfilled her dreams.

Monica designed the centerpieces, which consisted of Chinese silk cloth and childhood photos of the bride and groom. Each guest took home a pair of chopsticks tied with colorful cords. Instead of signing a guest book, guests wrote special messages on plates decorated by the bride and groom with song lyrics, poems, and verses. The plates were later finished at the Paint Patch in Ballard. "It's more precious than any china we could ever have registered for," Monica said.

The couple was very pleased with the work of photographer Debra Gerth who documented the wedding for them and for us. "Deb caught those special moments on film that make your wedding day memorable, not just for you but also for your guests. She was so unobtrusive that many people didn't even realize she was there. Deb was even able to sneak up and photograph the antics of our four-year-old flower girl."

The couple honeymooned in Maui and Kauai after the wedding.

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